What young people’s grief looks like
Young people go through the same grief, sadness and despair as adults do, even though it might look different. For teenagers the grieving process can last longer, and can go through different stages as they mature.
It’s normal to worry about whether the loss of a parent or sibling will have a lasting impact on your child. But just as adults recover after grief, young people can learn to be happy again and go on to live normal lives.
What you can do
There is no guidebook for how to support a young person who has lost someone important to them. You may be feeling helpless right now, but there are things you can do to support them while they are grieving.
- Let them grieve in their own way
Assure your child that there is no right or wrong way to feel or show grief; everyone deals with it in their own personal way. ‘Normal’ grief for young people doesn’t just mean feeling sad. It often involves anger (that their world has been turned upside down, or with the person who died), guilt, loneliness or anxiety.
There are tips for dealing with grief after cancer that we have written for young people.
It’s common for young people to feel they can’t talk to you about the death of their other parent or brother or sister because you’re grieving too. Try bringing it up when you are doing something else at the same time – in the car, or cleaning up in the kitchen.
Tell them it can be helpful to open up to someone. Encourage them to talk to a friend or relative, or other young people who’ve lost a parent or sibling to cancer (via the CanTeen Community) or a CanTeen counsellor.
- Create memories and rituals
Help your child maintain a connection to the parent or brother or sister they’ve lost. There are lots of ways other young people have created memories and rituals to honour the memory of a parent or sibling. Or suggest they join the CanTeen community where they can read stories and forum posts by other bereaved members and add their own.